Could convalescent plasma therapy be the solution the world is awaiting?


Can the therapy help contain the coronavirus contagion in Nepal?

Is the therapy the answer to the one question the entire world is asking?

KATHMANDU: The trial of convalescent plasma therapy in various parts of the world including the US, China shows that it may be a safe treatment option for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms at a time when vaccines for the virus are yet to be developed.

Convalescent plasma therapy is an experimental treatment where the plasma — the liquid portion of the blood — drawn from the people who’ve recovered is transfused into people with severe COVID-19 symptoms to boost their ability to fight the virus. The phenomenon could be attributed to the fact that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies, the proteins the body uses to fight off infections in their blood. It might also help keep people who are moderately ill from becoming more ill and from developing further complications.

As the recovered person will be able to donate twice, 400 ml each time, possibly curing symptoms in 2-3 persons, the therapy could be a viable option for the treatment of severe cases also in Nepal, with plasma drawn from 365 persons that have recovered so far.

Although the therapy is yet to be approved as the established treatment for COVID-19 and has no concrete evidence of being an effective treatment for the virus, many people have benefited from the preliminary treatment.

According to the findings published in The American Journal of Pathology, the results of the clinical trials to transfuse plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients into critically ill patients by the researchers from the Houston Methodist Hospital in the US showed that 19 out of 25 patients (76 per cent) improved with treatment and 11 were discharged from the hospital. There were no serious adverse side effects caused by the plasma transfusion.

However, there is still the risk of contracting the infection from receiving convalescent plasma therapy, though researchers believe that it is very low because the donor has fully recovered from the infection and the plasma is tested for possible HIV and hepatitis. 

“While physician-scientists around the world scramble to test new drugs and treatments against the COVID-19 virus, convalescent serum therapy emerges as potentially one of the most promising strategies,” said study researcher Eric Salazar from Houston Methodist Hospital.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on March 27 shows some evidence that plasma could help people with severe illness. Researchers in China reported that five critically ill patients improved after receiving convalescent plasma. 

The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has approved it for experimental trials and asking recovered COVID-19 patients who are symptom free for at least 14 days to donate plasma.

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